Heat (1972):

After imagining New York grottiness as the new Tinseltown glamour, Paul Morrissey goes to Hollywood, sort of -- his Los Angeles is a succession of squalid bungalows and embalmed mausoleums, rigorously seedy and peopled with fetching porn wrecks. "L.A. is going to the dogs," intones vast, frizzy landlady Pat Ast, imperiously surveying a kingdom of her own, fan in hand; Andrea Feldman expands her showstopping Trash bit into a sublime, cackling banshee, complete with cigarette burns and failed lesbiandom ("Can't even make a good dyke"); and "semi-retired" star Sylvia, reduced now to TV purgatory when not being mortified by daughter Feldman, prowls her old-school mansion in bikinis and shades. At the center of all these female furies is the pimply obscure object of desire, Joe Dallesandro, here a former child-star, coasting on impudent passivity and into Miles' bed in hopes of getting his career kick-started. A Sunset Blvd. spoof, then, with a listless sex-act duo (brothers, natch, one of them perpetually whacking off in white nightie and knee-high socks) in the wings, and an extra dollop of self-reflexivity: its washed-up diva is too much flesh and blood to aspire to the iconic decay of Norma Desmond. Morrissey further compounds the commentary on performativity by landing Miles, his single (semi) professional actress, in the midst of all the other dippy ad-libbers; "I keep forgetting I don't have to keep my hair looking good, because I am not working anymore," she says in bed to Dallesandro and to the running camera, armed with zoom for pictures and pathos. Dallesandro sits on a sofa and sticks his leg between Feldman's thighs, who grinds away against his boot while Morrissey cannily keeps everything in medium-shot, the better to record the ballet of movements when Miles comes striding into the frame through the background. Indeed, the casually subtle style is on par with a Cassavetes essay like Minnie and Moskowitz, similarly about the chasm between the characters' lives and the Hollywood memories which they can no longer live up to -- appropriately, the reality of a jammed gun intrudes upon Miles' attempt to turn Dallesandro into Joe Gillis, in modern-day Tinseltown only an image face down in the pool of cinema past. With Eric Emerson, Harold Childe, and Ray Vestal.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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